There are diverse cultural groups in Africa which bear many interesting qualities as Africa itself. One of the many African ethnic groups is the Kongo or (Bakongo) whose homeland as the name suggests, is the Central African region called Congo River Region, which covers the Republic of the Congo, Angola, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The Bakongo have a significant influence in the world of music, rich culture and are an interesting people. These, among other reasons, triggered my curiosity in knowing more about them. It is my hope that this study will provide comprehensive knowledge on this impressive group irrespective of the brevity of this article hence satiating my curiosity.
The Bakongo have a rich culture which includes different practices. For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the Rites of Passage. There is a belief in the existence of a close relationship among the unborn, the living and the dead. That, in essence, shows a belief in the existence of an afterlife (MacGaffey, W. (1977). Every stage of life is paramount, and each category has its significance in the community, and thus a ritual or celebration is always held for each. The ceremony held at birth is called ko-bota Alinghi in the local dialect, which translates to what a pleasure it is to give birth. People celebrate together the joy of the arrival of new ones, which signify continuity (Missinne, L. E. (1980).
At initiation, a rite called Longo, the transitioning children/ youths are taught the behaviors, expectations, responsibilities and all that entails adulthood. It is important to note that this practice (Longo) is fading due to formal education influence brought by westernization.
Death, which, supposedly, ushers one into the afterlife and spiritual realms, is also accompanied by the necessary ritual. Graves are mostly simple, just some concrete cross (Missinne, L. E. (1980). The traditional ones were however very elaborate, some of which still exist. The Bakongo are religious people, being among the first sub-Saharan African people to adopt Christianity. They also had a traditional religion of their own, complete with its beliefs. These have mixed with Christian views which have resulted in the formation of new sects. There are a lot of norms and taboos among the Bakongo people, like food taboos, sex taboos e.c.t.
Transmission of these cultural practices takes place in many forms. Folklore exists, which teach people more about the taboos and their origins, religious gatherings, and ceremonies, which involve teachings and celebrations of religious nature and significance help in spreading of such beliefs and practices (MacGaffey, W. (1977).
The practices discussed above have their importance. The rites of passage help one to develop an understanding of oneself in both a cultural and tradition context, hence bringing a sense of identity and belonging. The religious teaching together with taboos helps in the development of an orthodox behavior and personality. They assist instilling the right morals by either teaching the acceptable practices or prohibiting the unacceptable ones or both.
By the study summarized in this article, it is evident the Bakongo people are a culturally rich people.
MacGaffey, W. (1977). Fetishism revisited: Kongo nkisi in sociological perspective. Africa, 47(02), 172-184.
Missinne, L. E. (1980). Aging in a Bakongo culture. The International Journal of Aging and Human Development, 11(4), 283-295.
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